Often when we are discussing parenting styles with our friends who are also parents, we hear a lot of discussion about sleep training, different types of formula, bleaching versus not bleaching surfaces, and the pressure they feel from other parents. We also hear from several of them that communication, love, and trust in her/his partner is paramount for providing the appropriate support for the child and each other. We have excellent communication skills and check in with each other often about our thoughts on everything from movies, politics, and, of course, parenting. Parenting can be chaotic, stressful and tiring, often leading to breakdowns in communication. The fact that we already practice good communication skills and discuss ways to improve communication when necessary shows our recognition of these factors.
As parents, we believe that it is important to tailor our parenting style to the child’s developmental and individual needs. We recognize that every child has her or his own personality. Some children are more independent and need less hands-on assistance with accomplishing tasks and need the ability to learn from their own mistakes. Other children can be more sensitive, require more coaching, and need more assurance and emotional support. We feel that it is imperative to take the child’s personality and individual needs into account when deciding on how to approach any parenting situation.
With that said, we also recognize that a child does need structure and consistency in order to feel secure and safe. It is through predictability and consistency that trust and attachment bonds are formed between the child and parents. For these reasons we believe in starting a predictable bed time and food schedule pretty early on, most likely after the first four months of age.
In regards to discipline, we believe that positive reinforcement as opposed to corporal punishment is key to any behavioral change. We believe that children should learn from mistakes, but also not be afraid to make them. Some of our best lessons are learned through making mistakes.
As a couple, we value novel experiences. This may mean new mental or physical challenges, or exposure to different cultural rituals, art, and/or cuisine. We believe that these experiences will foster resilience. These experiences can also teach our children tolerance and empathy, while reducing anxiety about trying new things, and having more flexible styles of thinking and learning about the world. We want our children to be comfortable challenging their assumptions and taking calculated risks.
Academics are something that we also value. We believe that children deserve the opportunity for an excellent education. This is why we moved to Howard County. The school system here has been ranked one of the top in the country, and also provides a lot of cultural diversity. If our children need assistance in academics, we will do what we need to in order to provide the necessary assistance for our child. This may include psychological testing to rule in/out learning disabilities, tutors, any in-school accommodations, and psychiatric and/or counseling services.
Despite our strong belief that our children deserve the best in education, we also believe that it is important for our children to foster interests and skills that may improve the quality of their lives, and encourage continued curiosity about the world. We will support interest in sports, the arts, politics, debate, social justice, volunteerism, and any other extracurricular activities at school. We also recognize that there are various ways for our children to become independent and would support our child’s choice to go to college, trade school, or build upon a talent they may have acquired.
In regards to our child’s physical health, we believe in going to the pediatrician regularly. We will follow pediatrician recommendations including what and when to vaccinate our child. We believe in the science behind vaccines and that they are an important part of preventative health.
Child Empowerment, Affirmation, and Resilience:
We believe that there are multiple ways to empower our child and that we need to utilize as many of them as possible in order to raise a healthy daughter or son. We think that empowering, affirming, and building resilience needs to be approached environmentally, culturally, and at times, directly.
As parents, it will be incumbent on us to build an environment that will foster our child’s self-esteem and resilience. This means being able to actively listen to our child’s unique perspective on life. We will need to provide our child space to allow her or him to develop her or his own personality. We will also need to find ways to regularly remind our child that our child is loved, powerful, and capable and to teach our child how to affirm this about her or himself. We will need to be sure that we not only discuss our morals and values, but live them. We will need to be sure that we are reinforcing our child’s assertiveness, not just compliance to rules. We feel secure that we are competent enough and willing to continue to grow in these areas.
In order to build our child’s feelings of affirmation in the environment, we plan on infusing our child’s social network with a variety of strong, supportive role-models. We believe that this will be especially important as a “non-traditional” family. We also will ensure that our child is exposed to a variety of different strong women. As a gay couple, it will be important for our child to be able to pull from our experiences, however, it is just as important for our child to have female role models to look up to. For a daughter, it will be important for her to see and have the opportunity to talk about her unique experience of what it is like to be a girl with another person who has been through it. I also think it will be important for a son to also have strong female role-models in his life. He needs to recognize that there are different experiences outside of the male experience, learn how to listen before speaking, and to learn how to treat women with the same amount of respect as he does for men.
We also believe in the strength of creating a supportive culture through community. We have been visiting the local Unitarian Universalist Congregation in order to assess our comfortability levels with introducing our future family into that community. We are considering this spiritual community for a few reasons. The first is that they seek inspiration for all of the world’s major religions. This would allow our child to learn about many world religions and start to decide for her or himself what she or he believes spiritually. We also like the Our Whole Lives program, which addresses sexuality and sexual identity in developmentally appropriate ways throughout our child’s life. We believe that feeling empowered means being knowledgeable about your body, identity, and sexual preferences in order to make appropriate decisions about her or his body. It also aids in our child’s ability to identify her or his boundaries, the boundaries of others, and to be able to assertive to defend her or his personal boundaries. Despite all of these great reasons to join this community, one of the largest aspects of this community that we appreciate, is the number of adoptive, interracial, and gay families that are in attendance and how accepting the larger congregation is of “alternative families”. It is our hope that in participating in this community, it will allow our child to see other families similar to our child’s. Seeing her or his experience reflected back to our child can be very affirming and also allows our child to make friends with others who may have similar experiences. This would allow our child to be comfortable with our family structure and dynamics in a culture of acceptance and inclusion. It will allow our child to be able to talk to her or his peers about some of the unique experiences that may arise as the adoptive child of a gay couple.
We believe that building empowerment, self-affirmation, and resilience can also be directly fostered throughout our child’s life. This could start at a very young age. This may include celebrating not only birthdays, but adoption day. We could also affirm our child through children’s books and bedtime stories.
We also believe it is important to support our child’s interests. If this means dressing up for tea, having makeup smeared on our faces, or providing transportation to various sporting events, we are game. If that means finding music tutors, going to recitals, or dressing up for Halloween, we are all in.
What is important to know is that our child will always come first. She or he will be loved and supported in whatever ways needed for her or him to grow. Family is the biggest value that we share as a couple. Our family will always come first. We would love for the opportunity to build our family together to raise a strong, independent child.